A new analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that the risk of suicide among low skilled male labourers, particularly those working on construction, is much higher than the male national average.
Overall, there were 18,998 suicides in men and women aged between 20 and 64 years between 2011 and 2015, a rate of around 12 deaths for every 100,000 people per year in England.
Males working in the lowest-skilled occupations had a 44% higher risk of suicide than the male national average; the risk among males in skilled trades was 35% higher. The risk of suicide among low-skilled male labourers, particularly those working in construction roles, was three times higher than the male national average.
For males working in skilled trades, the highest risk was among building finishing trades; particularly, plasterers and painters and decorators had more than double the risk of suicide than the male national average.
Research has found that major factors which can put people at risk of suicide include low pay, low job security and wider socio-economic characteristics. All of which are potentially major factors in construction.
“These figures are truly disturbing and demonstrate that sadly the majority of construction employers are failing in their duty of care to their workforce,” said Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary of the Unite general union. “This is the latest evidence that the industry’s hire and fire culture is fundamentally unhealthy and is a major factor in these terrible and needless tragedies.”
Cartmail said the industry needs to “tackle the macho culture where workers who talk about their feelings or mental health issues are too often considered to be ‘weak’”.
The union wants more awareness of the suicide risk in construction and an explanation of where workers can receive confidential support.
“We also need to be ensuring that far higher numbers of workers, including union safety reps, are trained in mental health first aid,” she added.